By JOHN DRAYTON
Arsenal whizzkid Gedion Zelalem is set to sign his first professional contract with the club.
The 17-year-old midfielder, who made his first-team debut from the bench against Coventry in the FA Cup, has committed to the Gunners until 2017.
Arsene Wenger spotted Zelalem’s talent at a young age and he looks set to be fast-tracked to the senior squad alongside the likes of Serge Gnabry.
He showed some assured touches after replacing Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain with 20 minutes remaining of the fourth round tie at the Emirates on January 24.
Zelalem has also been named on the bench for three Barclays Premier League matches without making a further appearance.
Largely, he has been deployed in the Under-21 Premier League, FA Youth Cup and UEFA Youth League this season but further first-team chances seem assured.
He made history against Coventry by becoming the first player born after Arsene Wenger took charge at the club to feature in one of his teams.
Wenger was appointed on October 1, 1996 and Zelalem was born on January 26, 1997.
Zelalem first sprung to a wider consciousness during Arsenal’s pre-season tour of the Far East last summer, hitting a sumptuous outside-of-the-foot pass to Thomas Eisfeld against Indonesia and setting up Theo Walcott to score against Nagoya Grampus.
It led to high praise from Jack Wilshere, who said at the time: ‘He sees passes that not a lot of players can and he’s so comfortable on the ball. Even in training, he’s a nightmare to play against.’
The England man went on: ‘He keeps the ball away from you and shields it. He’s not very big but he’s strong. He drifts in and out of players. Technically, he’s right up there. He can use his left and right and he sees so many passes.’
Zelalem was born in Berlin to Ethiopian parents but lived in Washington between the ages of nine and 16.
He is therefore eligible to play for Germany, the United States and Ethiopia. He is a German youth international.